The Best Houston Music We Heard in April
Photo by Tracy Anne Hart/courtesy of Tony Vega Band
TONY VEGA BAND
Houston's Near Northside was in the news quite a bit last month thanks to the opening of White Oak Music Hall, but it's also the setting of the wonderful “Moody Park,” a highlight of the Tony Vega Band's brand-new Black Magic Box album. The majority of the record is straight-up blues and mid-century R&B, but here Vega lets his childhood memories float by over a wistful accordion that recalls Los Lobos' classic 1987 LP By the Light of the Moon. He's definitely got the same eye for lyrical detail, mentioning Holy Name Catholic Church, Poppa Burger, the Majestic Metro theater, and Impalas and '57 Bel Airs by name. Don't miss the cooler-than-Antarctica cover of Lyle Lovett's “Penguins” on the same record, too. CHRIS GRAY
DESECRATE THE FAITH
Self-described as “brutal, slamming, technical death metal,” Desecrate the Faith plays one of 100 different variations of “grind” that meticulously divide metal’s most extreme subgenre. But, hey, who cares? The quintet's music will melt your fucking face off, or at least keep your neighbors with small children at bay, thanks to the heavy dissonance, low death growls and blast beats of gore-themed songs like “Disfigured Arrangement” and “Pray for Degradation.” Recently opening for the likes of Suffocation, DTF will soon be heading to Europe to bring the wrath of Texas metal to foreign ears; pretty impressive for some local Houston boys. Catch them at their last stateside show this Saturday (May 7) with Hate Eternal, Vital Remains, Black Fast and Inanimate Existence at Eastdown Warehouse. KRISTY LOYE
LIL-TREY feat. DETRE VAL
“Sky Is the Limit”
Hustletown – it's not just a nickname, but a way of life for independent Houston musicians. It’s more than releasing tracks or playing shows. In this town, if you’re seeking notoriety, it means beating feet and shaking hands, carrying demos to wherever new listeners might be. That’s how artists like Lil-Trey and Detre Val do it. If you ask, they’ll tell you how political Houston’s music scene can be and how tiring it is to keep lacing the thick-soled shoes needed for chasing a dream. That makes “Sky Is the Limit” even more poignant. Its beats, produced by Detre Val, sound like the subconscious echoes that precede a hopeful realization. Lil-Trey’s rhymes are deftly delivered and echo the same optimism. "Sky Is The Limit" – it's not just a song title, but a way of life for these independent Houston musicians. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
GUILLA feat. ALICIA GIANNI
"Death of Tomoe"
If Kyle Hubbard has set the bar high for Houston indie rap collabs, Guilla may well have vaulted over it on his spacey new disc Children of the Sun. The local MC and sci-fi obsessive brought in talented pals like iLL FADED, Say Girl Say and budding megastar Kam Franklin to lend an added twinkle of star power to his new project, but maybe the most surprising and memorable of the hooks on his new album can be found on “Death of Tomoe,” a deep and hard-hitting cut featuring the talents of Houston Grand Opera soprano Alicia Gianni. She performed the song with Guilla at his album release show at Raven Tower last month, and the stunning (ha) phaser effects on Gianni’s voice sent chills down a spine or two under the big metal roof. Guilla and Gianni were both back in SugarHill Studios earlier this week working on her forthcoming EP. That’s going to be something you ain’t heard before — we’ll let you know when it drops. NATHAN SMITH
AN OATH OF MISDIRECTION
Hands down, An Oath of Misdirection delivers some of the heaviest, most professionally executed metal tracks in the Bayou City music scene. I was lucky enough to catch the last half of their set at Scout Bar when they opened for Thy Art Is Murder, and it left me dry and thirsty. With no shows on the books this summer, An Oath is heading into the studio soon, so look forward to some new tracks later this year. Meanwhile, familiarize yourself with their debut release, Everyone Is Suspect, and thank us later. [Note: this paragraph has been modified after its original publication; the band's bassist was not in fact tapped to join Amon Amarth's tour. We regret the error.] KRISTY LOYE
THE TEXAS TURBINES
Live performance (April 20)
For a band that hasn't played many gigs, the Texas Turbines gave a pretty impressive performance in their first gig at Under the Volcano. Led by guitarists Jim Ferguson and John Griffin, the Turbines laid on doses of twang rock, hillbilly rock and ZZ Top rock for a good crowd of Med Center types. Not every song is memorable, but the Turbines played almost two hours of original tunes, an impressive feat for a band made up of guys with serious day jobs. These guys are already pretty good and could grow into a substantial act if they keep at it and gig more. WILLIAM MICHAEL SMITH
Live performance (April 16)
Other than knowing the name, I didn't know much about Houston R&B artist Alycia Miles prior to her set at Heights Vinyl as part of Record Store Day. I walked away not only familiar with Miles's music, but a fan of it as well. Miles, who lists Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu among her many inspirations, tore through an energetic hourlong set that perfectly captured what's so great about enjoying live local music. The show compelled me to search out some of her studio work, and I walked away equally impressed. Miles likely made a few new fans during her Record Store Day set, and she certainly made one here. CLINT HALE
DEVIL KILLING MOTH
A Night In The Life Of is an intriguing album title for practically any working band, but especially for Devil Killing Moth, who have surely had some legendary nights in their more than ten years together. The album releases May 13, but last month DKM offered the sample track “Mind Boots” to fans. It’s a catchy paean to those who catch our attention and bring some sexy colors to the gray matter. It’s definitely not safe for work listening, unless you labor alongside nonjudgmental types who won’t disapprove of your spontaneous dancing. The oh-whoa-oh’s of the chorus will hang around like a good one-night stand. After a few hours of fun, you might wish them away, but you’ll wanna hold onto them all the same. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
"Same Old Song"
The honeymoon between Kyle Hubbard and Roologic Records didn’t last too terribly long, but after an amicable divorce, at least the kids got two Christmases. Or that’s what it felt like, anyway, when Hubbard gifted fans with four brand-new tracks last month — a second Christmas. Kyle being Kyle, he had some help stuffing our stockings with Four Free from frequent collaborators DJay Cas and Fullmetal, but the merriest carol of the bunch is “Same Old Song,” featuring a tight verse from a jolly old elf named T2 the Ghetto Hippie. The tune is about as syrupy as either of them has ever sounded: a lane-switchin’ tribute to the classic sounds of H-Town hip-hop that nonetheless acknowledges their own departure from that tradition. It’s most trunk-worthy, and it’s free. NATHAN SMITH
Photo courtesy of Wonky Power Records
Summer will be here soon, which means it's time to pull down the shades, turn up the AC and tune the MP3 player to after-hours electro-pop jams like the moody new Bang Bangz single. Released today, (thanks for the advance link, guys), “Young Boy” has a sort of heavy-lidded aloofness that lulls you into a blissful trance like rain on a windowsill, almost disguising the fact that the youth in question sounds like he's having a hard time, poor kid. Lava lamp sold separately. CHRIS GRAY
BLACK MARKET TRAGEDY
I had the chance to see BMT open for Butcher Babies at Scout Bar in the fall, yet it wasn’t until I heard a recording of “Red Awakening” that I realized there was some serious magic in the vocals of Vali Reinhardt. A bit progressive metal, a bit Huntress and even some industrial influence, there’s plenty of interesting acoustics going on here. If that doesn’t pique your interest, then perhaps you should see them live and judge for yourself. See them open Oceans of Slumber's Winter release party this Friday at Scout Bar alongside Green as Emerald, Hydrilla and A New Horizon. KRISTY LOYE
SSPS feat. MIGUEL FLACO, MARAMURESH, JOHN CALERO & TIAJO VARJAO
Live performance (April 26)
For a rap city and experimental trash garden, Houston remains unaccountably skeered of drum machines. I’m not against live bands; ask anyone, I have friends who play drums: I’m just sayin’. Nonetheless, if your subscription to the music of our time was paid up and your dayplanner was properly tabbed, you may have been among those treated to a night of loose electronics and past and future funk at Walters last Tuesday, when SSPS, a.k.a. Pyramid Snake, a.k.a. Count Porkchop of Excepter, made a rare stop in Houston. Maramuresh inaugurated the night with a slippery concatenation of vocal loops and live improv electro, dense and murky, alternately sounding like the score to an unnecessary amputation or music for making babies, provided they’re all Rosemary’s babies.
Next, Miguel Flaco served up a smooth set of lubricious as in white lithium greasedhouse and techno, groovy, nuanced and in the pocket. Likewise, DJs John Calero and Tiajo Varjao kept it medium rare and halfway between the head and the hips all night. Finally, for our purposes, (not lastly, because that was the transcendent racket marking the official debut of my group Studded Left about which I won’t say any more except that we stay true to our school, which is a school for geniuses) came SSPS. Bedraped with a guitar, largely untouched, in a uniform of short-shorts and wild eyes, SSPS proceeded immediately to jab and wiggle buttons on a table covered in microsynths, drum machines and other electronic boxes. His set was a jumble of rhythmic builds and leaveoffs, psychedelic phasing, skipping traditional cornball raveup dynamics for counterintuitively long sequences, little cryptodithers of melody, erratic and obscured vocalizing, and overall good vibes of the kind of love that can only be offered by a vet who has gripped the sinews of the big thermodynamic beast between his thighs and ridden it down. TEX KERSCHEN
DARK SPARK RAYS
There’s enough new Houston music being regularly released not to have to look back; but sometimes a good song doesn’t get to you until you get to it at a live show. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it for Dark Spark Rays’ “Daytime Lullaby.” Originally released four years ago, it was the thing I didn’t know I needed to listen to repeatedly until I caught the indie/art-rockers at April’s HomeGrown Music and Arts Festival. Replete with members who are easy on the eyes, the band has a strong European following and a growing one here at home. Past that first glance, though, you find they’re just as easy on the ears, with psyche-soothing songs that are atmospheric and romantic. The best of the bunch is this song, wherein vocalist James Lino channels Lou Reed for a plaintive contemplation on trying to hold tight to the falling sands of time. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.
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